Lana Del Rey
Polydor / Interscope · October 22, 2021
By this point, Lana Del Rey has joined the ranks of the most prolific and unforgettable artists of the past decade, thanks to her consistency in releasing acclaimed, stylistically diverse albums every year or two. In the past year alone, she’s added the seventh and eighth entries to her catalogue, Chemtrails Over The Country Club in March and Blue Banisters in October. Listening to the two albums, it’s easy to see how they were recorded within close proximity of one another; on both, she seems to have progressed past the vibrant instrumentals and lyrical themes of Norman Fucking Rockwell in favor of a softer, more personal sound.
Lana’s personality often works to the benefit of Blue Banisters. Her songwriting has always been her top strength, and the instrumental environment throughout the album, full of piano ballads and minimal instrumental arrangements behind her voice, gives her the space to offer up songs depicting her personal experiences in a compelling fashion. Many of the songs focus on past relationships, and lines like “You act like fucking Mr. Brightside when you’re with all your friends, but I know what you’re like when the party ends” from the track “Thunder” show that Lana is sharp and relatable as ever.
Though Blue Banisters might seem less adventurous than her past albums due to the subtlety of the instrumentation behind her, Lana frequently experiments with the way she uses her voice as its own instrument. On tracks like “Arcadia,” she takes her voice a couple registers higher than listeners are accustomed to, creating an unusually ethereal effect. Elsewhere, on “Black Bathing Suit” and “Living Legend,” layering and distortion to her vocals bring about satisfying conclusions and keep the album from sounding like a traditionally stale piano rock album. Perhaps the best example of the great vocal performances throughout the record is the song “Dealer,” where Lana passionately addresses a past partner, adopting a shout-singing approach that brings a potent level of emotion to the track, complemented by the smooth guest appearance from Miles Kane.
Though Lana’s vocals and storytelling are interesting enough to make this album a success, there’s no doubt that it’s less instrumentally interesting than many of the classics in her discography. Listeners will occasionally stumble across a track like “Nectar of the Gods,” a pleasant-sounding song that fails to bring any ideas to the table that Lana hasn’t already explored at length throughout her career. Of course, there’s also the matter of “Interlude – The Trio,” a minute-long Lana-produced trap beat that … goes hard? Lana’s Tay Keith impression sounds genuinely decent, although it feels a bit jarring sandwiched between “Arcadia” and “Black Bathing Suit.” It doesn’t really fit alongside the rest of the tracks, but it reinforces the idea that Lana is at a stage of her career where she is committed to making the music that she wants to, rather than trying to perfect a new variation of her original chamber pop sound.
Lana Del Rey doesn’t have much else to prove at this point, but her natural artistic vision still provides a great listening experience. On the whole, Blue Banisters remains focused enough to do a better job of painting somber, reflective images than Chemtrails Over the Country Club, despite being released only seven months later.